What Are Children For?

childrenI was asked this question recently as I was in full flow pontificating on one of my favourite subjects, the balance and interaction between genetic inheritance and environment and the plasticity of the brain, when I was interrupted:

‘Yes, but… what are children FOR?’

Caught off-guard I stammered off the top of my head (and a little glibly) something like ‘Um..well, children become really good company when they’re older and maybe one day they’ll buy you a house’.

This was weeks ago, and I have of course been thinking about it ever since, so that if someone asks me that question again I can reply definitively and confidently ‘Oh, well you see…’

The definitive answer though remains stubbornly unforthcoming and of course I know that’s because it’s a subjective thing and everyone will have a different take on it. It made me think though; perhaps we should have some idea of what we think children are for, just so that we know our expectations. And maybe if we reflect on it we’ll find out that some of our unconscious expectations don’t really belong to us, they are just ideas we have internalised from our society or our parents, or t.v. adverts…

It was so much simpler in the olden days when the answer was clearly ‘To work on the farm’.

The question has come up for me many times in relation to specific circumstances – mostly slumped in front of Teletubbies, losing the will to live, as grumpy kids moan at me and I think ‘why am I doing this?’ – but I don’t think I ever considered it as a larger question, and certainly not before my children were born.

Because I have come a little late to this question I can only look back and say in retrospect what my children turned out to be for. Turns out that (I think) they made me into a better person in some ways – less selfish, less self-righteous, less of a know-it-all and more able to accept, go with the flow and live in the moment. They challenged me in specific ways that only children can and forced me to draw on reserves of humour, self-deprecation and energy I didn’t think I possessed.

I always had a vague idea that the ultimate job of parents was to deliver to the world another good person who would in some ways make the world a better place, but selfishly I’m glad just to have four older children who are good company and make me laugh.

That seems enough really. So, call me superficial but maybe that glib answer I gave was the most accurate one for me: ‘To be good company when they’re older and to buy me a  house’. And for the latter point, out of my four children, I already know which one my money’s on.

15 Responses

  1. Jackie Charley
    | Reply

    Funny you should ask that Stephanie, ‘cos I asked my husband the same question today. He muttered something like, “To teach us patience I suppose”. It’s a tough ride sometimes, but it definitely widens the heart.

    • Stephanie Davies-Arai
      | Reply

      I like his answer! I’d like to hear more thoughts – somebody on Twitter said ‘the same as the answer to the question: ‘what are people for?’ and I then spent the whole night thinking I don’t expect people to buy me a house even in jest, and does this mean I actually do have an unconscious expectation of payback time, and if so is that wrong..? Haha… no wonder I didn’t have a pat answer to hand!! Somebody tell me the right answer please!!

  2. Gude @HodgePodgeCraft
    | Reply

    Great post – got me thinking. I have 2 under 3, so at the moment they are mostly for:
    – cuddles
    – boy bundles!
    – chubby leg noms
    – ‘hilarious’ toddlerisms and toilet humour
    – tickles
    – bedtime stories in jim-jams (both smelling of talc)

    At any rate, that’s what I enjoy most with them. As they grow, those things will change and I look forward to the new reasons, while missing the old ones… 😉

  3. Jackie Charley
    | Reply

    I’ve thought of another one: for making you face the difficult questions in life you’d generally rather duck, or pass to the nearest particle physicist, depending on the context.

    Examples: It’s cruel to kill animals isn’t it? So why do we eat them?
    What’s my soul?
    If we accept that, theoretically, there could be an infinite number of parallel universes, does
    each one have a boundary or do they all go on for infinity? (That was at tea-time last night!)

    Ooh, don’t you just love ’em!

  4. That’s interesting. I often wonder what I’m for when no-one takes any notice but the kids? They carry on our genes – and Heaven knows who elses from before our living memory. And they love us back ?!

  5. Kriss MacDonald
    | Reply

    To love like crazy and drive us crazy!

    Thanks for sharing great post on Britmums.

  6. Glenda Gee
    | Reply

    Yes, I reckon the purpose of children is to stop you thinking you know it all, to stop you from getting rich, to test your stamina and also to make you laugh, to bring tears to your eyes, to keep you on your toes, to challenge your preset ideas……….in short they help make you a better human being.

  7. Dawn Frazier
    | Reply

    I’m quickly realising that my children are for making me realise the things I missed during my own childhood, and teaching me to appreciate the simple things in life.

  8. Katrina Chambers
    | Reply

    I love that response – the point of children is to make us better people!! I am definitely a better person since my son was born, for sure.
    I think if someone asked me that question I would probably say that children teach us what it’s all about, and by it I mean life – they make us live our lives again.

  9. Elaine
    | Reply

    I believe that having children allows us to experience ourselves as creators (because that is what we are) alongside God in our purest form. We experience ouselves as God and for most peolpe, when we birth our babies into this world we experience what unconditional love is, probably for the first time in our lives. We are also giving souls who have contracts with us to come and experience this 3rd dimentionality an opportunity and a way in.

  10. sarah
    | Reply

    What a great question. My little one has just turned one and I have had a rough time of it, and many times second guessed my decision to take everything that was simple and predictable in my life and make it difficult and complicated. But I’ve always thought it was a (slightly vain) notion of wanting a part of you to live on, because as a non-religious person it’s awfully depressing to think that when you’re gone that’s it. After losing both of my parents, this has a lot more meaning: it’s about having a small, achingly beautiful piece of them still with me now they’re gone.

  11. Orli D
    | Reply

    Loved your post. I totally agree with your answers about what having kids turned out to be. I’ve had some conversations with my husband about it, and we reached exactly those same answers.
    I only have 2, and they are still somewhat young. But I know which one my money’s on. 🙂

  12. Rachael (Mushroomsmum)
    | Reply

    Great, though provoking post! I never gave thought to what Mushroom is ‘for,’ before now… It’s been more about what I should be to him…. Perhaps it’s to teach us unconditional love, and most definitely patience! As far as he’s concerned, I think his purpose is just to be who he is and as parents we can only try to provide guidance and stability to help them achieve this. Also, they remind us that being a kid might seem easy in hindsight but at the time it’s hard work! I try to remember this whenever Mushroom has a meltdown… 😉

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